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Department of Emergency Services offers safety tips for July 4th holiday

Grilling outside and fireworks – two of the more common activities to celebrate Independence Day.

Both bring dangers, however, and the Harford County Department of Emergency Services is offering tips on staying safe when cooking outside and watching fireworks.

The offers the following safety information to help reduce the risk of fires and burn injuries resulting from barbecues and outdoor grilling:

• Propane and charcoal barbecues should only be used outdoors and under the close supervision of an adult.

• Grills should be placed well away from homes, patio deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging tree branches.

• Young children and pets should be kept away from the barbecue area.

• Help reduce the potential for fires by keeping the grill clean and removing grease or fat build up that may ignite.

• When using charcoal grills, use only approved charcoal lighter fluid. Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids to start a charcoal grill.

• Once charcoal briquettes have been lit, do not pour additional charcoal fluid on them as this may lead to a "flash-back" of flames on people near the grill.

• When using propane fired grills, use only in accordance with the manufactures instructions. Ensure all connections are tight before lighting the grill.

• When finished using the barbecue, allow briquettes and coals to cool completely before disposing of the ashes. Only dispose of charcoal ashes in a metal container.

Recent statistics released by the National Fire Protection Association reveal more than one-quarter of the dwelling fires involving barbecue grills originate on a courtyard, terrace or patio and nearly 30 percent start on an exterior balcony or open porch.

Outdoor barbecue grills produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless and poisonous gas which can lead to serious health issues and even death. Remember to never use an outdoor grill indoors, including such areas as garages, carports or enclosed structures.

"The Fourth of July holiday weekend should be a time of enjoyment for our citizens and visitors to Harford County, but fire and burn injuries can and will occur if proper safety measures are not adhered to when using barbecue grills," Director Russell J. Strickland of the Department of Emergency Services said. "Simply following these safety precautions can help reduce the risk of accidental fires and traumatic burn injuries."

As for fireworks, the Department of Emergency Services is urging residents and visitors to Harford County to refrain from using illegal or contraband fireworks during the July 4th holiday. Officials are concerned with the danger from illegal fireworks which may result in fires, burns and hand and eye injuries.

Maryland is one of several states that ban most forms of fireworks and small explosive devices for use by the general public.

According to statistics released by the National Fire Protection Association, in 2011 fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 fires, including more than 1,200 structure fires, 400 vehicle fires and more than 16,000 outdoor fires. These incidents resulted in eight civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries and millions of dollars in property damage.

Additionally, statistics compiled by the NFPA indicate the risk of fireworks injury is highest for young people ages 15 to 24, followed by children under 10 years of age.

Despite the dangers of fireworks, people do not seem to understand the devastating injuries to the hands, eyes and head these devices can produce.

"I highly recommend the public refrain from using illegal fireworks in Harford County this holiday weekend. The safest place to enjoy fireworks is by attending one of the many licensed, regulated fireworks displays in the state this week," Russell J. Strickland, director of the Department of Emergency Services, said.

For an updated list of public fireworks displays in Maryland this Fourth of July holiday, visit the Maryland State Fire Marshal website, http://www.mdsp.org/firemarshal.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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